It wasn’t long ago that South Dakota Democrats were tingling with excitement over the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
Sure, Tim Johnson, who’s been the rock of the party these past few years and a dependable leader for decades, is retiring. But the Democrats had his son, Brendan, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, as a possible candidate. They also had Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a former congresswoman. Even Mike Huether, the accomplished mayor of Sioux Falls, was talked about as a potential Senate hopeful. Any one of those three would have been a viable, respected challenger to the presumed Republican candidate, Mike Rounds.
And then there were hints of trouble on the Republican side. Some thought U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, who ousted Herseth Sandlin, might challenge Rounds in a primary.
Things were looking pretty darn hopeful for the Democrats.
Then, suddenly, over a span of weeks, Herseth Sandlin announced she won’t run. Brendan Johnson faded away, apparently not wanting to jump into politics at this precise moment. Huether, as far as I know, hasn’t ruled it out but hasn’t expressed a lot of interest, either.
Meanwhile, Rick Weiland jumped into the race on the Democratic side. (Remember him? He’s that guy who lost that race against somebody that one year way back.) And yesterday, Kristi Noem announced she will run for re-election to the House rather than challenge Rounds in a Senate primary.
What does it all mean? It means that as I write this, Mike Rounds’ election to the U.S. Senate is as close to a foregone conclusion as conclusions get in politics. And if that happens, it means South Dakota Democrats, who’ve long claimed congressional officeholders as at least a shred of something resembling political success in the state, won’t have even that anymore.
The Democrats desperately need somebody to ride onto the field of battle and rally the troops. Otherwise, they’re looking at a situation beginning in January 2015 in which they might be completely locked out of statewide and congressional offices, and still have an embarrassingly small number of legislative seats. It’ll be as close to literal one-party rule as South Dakota’s ever had.
Is there anybody out there who can save the Democrats? Anybody?